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Jesus Christ God, Man and Savior Week Six: God the Son at Nicaea and Constantinople

Peter Brown, Author

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The Arian Interpretation of Scripture

We have discussed a little of the philosophical underpinnings of Arius’ doctrine and its context as a response to the Sabellianism’ tendency to collapse the distinction of the Father and Son. But Arius and his followers were also able to cite many Scriptures in support of their interpretation. Arius’ reading of the OT was a major factor in why his doctrine became as popular as it did.

We have seen many places in the OT in which—under a Christian reading—Jesus Christ’s coming is not only anticipated, but also he appears in figure often under a different name.

For instance, there are various messianic prophecies that describe the anticipated redeemer by several titles.

Prophet: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him shall you heed… I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deut 18:15,18)

Priest: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’” (Ps 110:4)

Shepherd: “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them; he shall feed them and be their shepherd.” (Ezek 32:23)

King, Lord, and Son: “I will tell of the decree of the Lord; he said to me, ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession.’” (Ps 2:7–8)

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your King comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zach 9:9)

Suffering Servant: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:3-5)

Arius and his followers correctly noted that all these anticipations of Jesus Christ called for a person with an origin, not an eternal deity. But Arius would concede that these figures of Jesus Christ amounted to more than a human being. This is because in the reading of the OT revealed by Christ himself, the Son was active in the economy of creation and salvation through various modes of presence.
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